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GET WITH THE PROGRAMME - PNE

GET WITH THE PROGRAMME - PNE

Ah, Easter. A time of chocolate eggs and bank holidays. Oh, and something about some sort of resurrection or other. And, of course, all Wednesdayites are hoping that the Owls can resurrect their season into something slightly less depressing following the recent victory at Leeds.
For this edition of Get With the Programme, we visit a period that was crucial in resurrecting the club’s fortunes and establishing themselves as the top club in the city once more. So let’s go back to a time that will fill the hearts of all those of a blue and white persuasion with a warm glow. Yes, we are of course talking about season 2011-12. In fact, we go back almost exactly 6 years to 31 March 2012 and the visit of Preston North End to Hillsborough for a game televised live on Sky Sports.

This was a Wednesday side on the rise, and a North End side fighting a battle to stop sinking even further after relegation from the Championship the previous season. Wednesday were unbeaten in 7 matches, a run which started with the visit of that lot from across the city. The last five games had seen a definite upturn in performances after the appointment of Dave Jones, and, like a farmer chasing an errant, squealing hog, the team had closed the gap to their rivals to just 2 points.

Manager Jones was certainly in a chipper mood, so much so in fact that there was a rare photo of him smiling. Unfortunately Dave’s programme notes contain about as much interest as my cash ISA, but a closer look reveals some entertainingly nonsense phrases :
“…it will be nervous for everybody, but our home form is vital to us, just as much as the away form”
“You have got to have a response and the players have got to have a willingness to want to do that and I can’t fault them for that”

And my personal favourite : “if everything stayed the same, there would be no change”. Hard to argue with that to be fair.
Jones was particularly pleased with the previous weekend’s result, a 1-0 win at Leyton Orient, with the only goal of the game being scored by Reda Johnson. Regular readers of GWTP will recall that Reda popped up in the Birmingham edition a few weeks ago and, as if to prove that this article contains no forward planning whatsoever, is featured heavily in this programme too. You could say that he is also becoming a bit of a regular Reda of GWTP.
Ahem. Anyway, for those of you that have not abandoned this completely after that little pun, let’s focus briefly on the programme’s feature article with the big man. Reda had been chipping in with a few goals, which he attributed to his switch from centre-back to left-back earlier in the season, a move which clearly surprised even him : “I never thought it would be a position I would play. I could see myself playing maybe in midfield one day but not left back!” Hmmm, it would certainly have been interesting to see Reda try playing in midfield to say the least.

It was clear that Reda had a lot of respect for the club though and signed off his interview with a lovely quote : “We know our place is not in League 1. Sheffield Wednesday is not at its right place so we want our hard work to pay off by having Championship football at Hillsborough next season”.
With the game being broadcast live on Sky Sports, the programme included an article showing an analysis of every League result the club had ‘achieved’ live on said station. At the time, Wednesday had played 63 League games live on Sky, 28 at home and 35 away.

The home record was reasonably respectable with 10 wins (but only 2 of the last 11), 9 draws and 9 defeats but the away record was stunningly awful : 6 wins, 9 draws and 20 defeats. Not only that but a grand total of 66 goals conceded in those away games as well. This record was not helped by a run between 1995 and 1999 when the Owls lost 11 straight away Sky fixtures. Running this on a bit further, Wednesday managed consecutive away games on Sky without a win. This all probably sounds about right for those of who knew that a live game always seemed to bring out the worst in Wednesday, which is probably why, even when we have been a lot better over the past couple of seasons, I always find watching us on TV a far more nervy experience than being at the game.

The team’s recent good run had been helped in no small part by the recruitment of winger Michail Antonio on loan from Reading. It’s hard to believe now that Antonio couldn’t get in the Royals team and as he commented “I’m just enjoying playing games”. To be fair, at times I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player look less like he was enjoying playing in a football match, but in this period there is no doubt his good spirits were reflected in his performances on the pitch.
Antonio was also the subject of the Q&A article ‘5 minutes with…’. Other than the fact that he would like Will Smith to play him in film about his life (“he’s the man!”), the most interesting fact was that Michail roomed with Gary Madine for away games. Not only that, but we got a tantalising glimpse into the nightly habits of the pair : “Gary Madine is a really good room mate, he’s quite quiet and he just takes a really long bath and chills out for the evening” Not only that but “I often talk, shout and laugh in my sleep…..Gary hasn’t complained about it yet!”
Fascinating stuff, and maybe if Gary hadn’t repressed his rage at Michail’s nocturnal ramblings by simmering for hours in a hot bath tub he wouldn’t have felt the need to start chinning people in nightclubs.

Antonio wasn’t the only loan player helping the Owls towards promotion, as Jones had recently recruited winger Keith Treacy from Burnley and striker Nile Ranger from Newcastle. Both players were excited to be joining the Championship push as neither had been getting much game time with their respective parent clubs. As Ranger commented, “it’s about goals, goals and goals for me”. We all know, of course, that there is rather more than goals to contend with as far as Nile is concerned, although to be fair he did seem to keep his nose clean during his spell in S6. We all remember his goal in the final game of that season, at which point he revealed a message on his vest stating “I am a changed man”. Sadly for Nile, it would seem that it was only temporary, as he now once again finds himself without a club after being bombed out of Southend for disciplinary reasons. Perhaps Dave Jones was right after all : “if everything stayed the same, there would be no change”.

In opposition

Preston had been in decline for a couple of seasons at this time. Having been perennial Championship play-off contenders, they had even survived a spell with Alan Irvine as manager relatively unscathed.

However, they had fallen from the Championship in 2011 and were struggling to turn the tide of negativity (something you would never see happening at Hillsborough of course), sitting in a disappointing 15th place going into this game.
Preston had given GWTP stalwart Phil Brown the boot in December after an unremarkable spell that included relegation, and appointed Graham Westley. At this stage of his career, Westley was seen as a young up-and-coming manager after his successes at Stevenage. He was, however, not exactly an aficionado of free-flowing football and was already suffering some criticism about his style of play, defending himself with “Opposition fans would say they wouldn’t like to watch that every week, but the Stevenage fans loved it because they loved winning”.

The problem with that is that, if the winning stops, the whole thing can become a tedious spiral of mediocrity pretty quickly, which is what seemed to happen to Westley at Preston. Anyway, more of him in a minute.
Preston’s fall from grace was highlighted by the distinct lack of proven quality in their squad list. We will of course make an exemption for the excellent Neil Mellor (struggling with injuries that were soon to see him retire) and the respectable Graham Alexander. No such exemption for a certain Paul Coutts at number 8 though.
Other than Mellor, the only Wednesday connection in their squad was winger Danny Mayor, who joined the Owls a few months later in one of our the more pointless transfers of recent times, as Jones seemed to go off him before the ink had dried on his contract.

The game

Wednesday were to continue their good form with a relatively routine win, but that was not to be the main talking point for the neutrals. Westley accused an unnamed source at his club of leaking his team news to the Owls before the kick-off. Ignoring the fact that this would probably have made absolutely no difference to Wednesday’s approach, Westley was in a state of apoplexy about it afterwards.
No fear for the visitors though, as they had just the man to resolve any underlying issues in club chairman Peter Ridsdale, who decided that no investigation was required.

Regardless of any team-leaking shenanigans, Wednesday were good value for the win. The first half was goalless, with Antonio and Jermaine Johnson both forcing good saves from away keeper Thorsten Stuckmann. A few minutes into the second half, Gary Madine fired home a fierce drive from the edge of the area to put the Owls in front.
On 64 minutes the game was effectively over as Madine headed in his second from an Antonio long throw. This was followed by a somewhat bizarre and, to my knowledge, never fully explained bout of Madine running towards the away bench pointing and shouting “What?” several times. Obviously Westley’s popularity knew no bounds.

Next up

As we draw into the last few home games of the season, it’s a visit from Fulham next and an even more recent encounter is due to be in focus…..  

Unread article 30/03/2018 at 10:54

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